HomeabelismWhy Do We Share False News and Click-Bate?

I’m a fan of TEDTalks and TEDx. I have been for a while. Just before writing this entry, I watched the below video about internet shaming.

It got me thinking about how people tend to respond to this blog. I tend to write about a range of things, from politics to personal experiences. I started it as a way to raise awareness and to share bits and pieces of my experiences as a neurodivergent woman.

An Interesting Trend
This is still a pretty tiny blog. I haven’t put as much effort into publicizing as I could have, but I do engage with what responses I get. I’ve noticed some patterns.

One of my post popular posts, and one I still get replies on, is on the Candy Waters thing. It stemmed from my sharing of a story about her, and the reaction to it. I felt obligated to write about my thoughts on whether it was a scam or not, and I didn’t expect as much of a reaction as I got.

Even though I wrote that back in May, I still get comments on the post or via social media about it. I’ve only mentioned it in passing maybe once or twice before, so why all the attention?

I think one of the biggest factors is a natural draw to drama. In comparison to most of my other posts, that one has more conflict around the issue. There’s also a small group of people who are trying to get the scam recognized, but I’m not involved.

This got me thinking about the amount of attention autism gets in comparison to dyslexia. One in five people are dyselxic, yet the latest statistic I’ve seen about autism is that one in 68 are autistic. If we were to go by the numbers, dyslexia would be more significant, because it’s so common.

So, why isn’t there more attention paid to dyslexia?

A part of it is that dyslexic signs aren’t as overt as autistic signs. Someone silently battling with words just isn’t as obvious as someone battling with their senses. That gives more attention to the more obvious neurodivergence. Disturbance from dyslexic isn’t as immediate. Instead, it’s impact manifests later, when struggling kids becomes adults unable to support themselves in a word-heavy world.

Does that make one neurodivergence more important than the other in the grand scheme? Not at all. My dyslexia has had a massive hand in shaping my life, just as autism has in shaping the lives of those who have it. When it comes to life experiences, they’re equal. The difference is, more attention means greater sway on things like lawmaking and funding. This can result in some ugly fights when the funding pool available for struggling people is so small.

That’s why disability funding is always the first cut when services are on the chopping block. Disabilities are often invisible, and they’re not seen as significant enough for discussion.

A screenshot of the top three results for learning disabilities. The titles are "These Photos of Models with Learning Disabilities are Stunning", "Is ADHD a Learning Disability?" and "3 Ways My Learning Disability Affects My Life".

Would you share any of these top three news results for “learning disabilities”?

The Problem With News Coverage
The attention they get is often solely in the name of making money for the publishing platform. One recent example is the Daily Mail article the video of a autistic 6-year-old boy who had the microphone snatched from his hand by a teacher. He burst into tears on stage, and the entire thing is generally heartbreaking.

The problem with the article is how it was written and composed. Instead of showing one screenshot of the kid, they showed it repeatedly, before showing the video. The language was custom made to evoke rage, which, in turn, meant it was shared widely. The the Daily Mail made who knows how much money off of advertizing revenue without contributing to a solution.

We live in an age of information overload. That article is a prime example of how those stories are used make money off of the most vulnerable among us. It’s also how the false information spread during this last shameful election cycle happened. Like the tweet discussed in the video that inspired this entry, rumors and fake news stories were spread by people whose emotions overrode common sense.

While misinformation in and of itself isn’t harmful, the actions taken by people who believe it can be. That’s why it’s so important to verify news stories before sharing them. That’s also why it’s important to keep track of how a story is effecting your emotions.

Share Smart
That’s why more of us need to start verifying information before we share it. I steer clear of publications like Daily Mail, because of how the write their stories. Here are a couple of other guidelines I follow:

  • Never share from a web page with .co at the end
  • If the article is full of swear words, it’s not news – it’s opinion
  • Sources that don’t give credit to writers or photographers (that I know of – Huffington Post is one who doesn’t pay bloggers)
  • Watch for bias in news sources, for example, Fox News is a well known right leaning publication

There are quite a few other tell tale signs to watch out for. NewsPrism is a great resource on this issue, and you can also check out my article from 2013 about how to find good news sources.

Since stories shared are the ones that inspire similar work, we each have power to show which are worthy. Before sharing something that pushes your buttons, make sure it’s not exploitative or false.

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